Monday, November 17, 2008

Can Vegas Sustain Another CES?

Trade shows, especially in the technology industry, often gravitate to the grand city of Las Vegas. Why? The location is always upbeat, the space accommodating, and the area fairly central to most. But anyone that's traveled to an event there over the past few years knows that the costs are also exponential, and only getting larger. If you go to Vegas for a show like CES, you're liable to pay upwards of $300/night for a hotel room that would normally run for half that. A good meal is tough to find for a reasonable price (although plenty of fantastic meals are to be had if you're willing to fork over the dough for them!) And drinks? You're lucky to find anything, and I mean anything with even just a drop of alcohol for less than $10. But with the economy in the state that it's currently in, will Vegas be able to keep up its perceived price gouging of trade show-goers?

The next massive show to arrive in Sin City is indeed CES this January. At this year's CEDIA EXPO, which took place in Denver, CO, many were rumbling that CES would be jumping ship to another city once its contract was up. The reason? Pricing was getting ridiculous in that great city known as Lost Wages. Some claimed that this wasn't entirely true: the CEA was just bluffing in an effort to get Vegas to wake up to the incredible loss the city would experience if events companies started moving their business elsewhere. Neither of these rumours have ever been substantiated, but we have seen evidence that Las Vegas definitely needs to, and might already be, waking up to the effects economic uncertainty can have.

Visit the official CES Website (, for instance, and you'll see a ton of hotels highlighted in bright yellow, signifying that they're offering reduced rates for show attendees. The most dramatic is the Excalibur, where a room that was $219 has now been reduced to just $141.

Aside from the show, the downturn the city is suffering from is becoming quite apparent. According to the Las Vegas Meetings and Travel Website from the Conventions and Visitors Authority, the number of visitors during the month of September was down 10.1% when compared to September 2007. In August, visitors were down 4.3%. The number of attendees at conferences was down 10% in Sept. and a whopping 22.3% in August; while the number of conferences actually held during those months was down 17.9% and 7.2%, respectively when compared to the prior year. Airline passengers arriving to or leaving from Vegas was also down: 9.9% in August and 13.2% in September. On average, all of the aforementioned figures were down at least 4% throughout the entire year of 2008 when compared to '07.

Meanwhile, even the gamblers are pinching their pennies. A recent Reuters report indicates that Vegas gambling is down for the ninth month in a row, while the take for casinos has dropped US$58 million from one year ago to an astonishing US$1 billion! Company shares on the stock market are also plummeting: Las Vegas Sands Corp. dropped from US$122 to just US$6; MGM Mirage from US$93 to US$11; and Wynn Resorts Ltd. from US$139 to under US$44.

While you won't see relevant companies opting out of attending CES this year altogether, you will see a cut back in the number of employees going down to the show. This means fewer flights, fewer dollars acquired from hotel room bookings, fewer dollars spent gambling, and fewer food and drink sales. Booths at the show will likely remain as big and flashy as they always are, but it's very possible that companies will be scaling back on even booth space as they consider bookings for next year's show.

What does this mean? The city of Las Vegas should really be pro-active in addressing all of these concerns, for both visitors and potential business partners that are looking to hold their conventions, events, and parties there. CES isn't moving to another location just yet, and has never announced that it is looking to do so either. But everything could tumble like a deck of cards if Vegas doesn't start proving itself a worthy, and reasonably-priced, home for convention-holders and goers to spend their money.

[Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau (LVCVA)].

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1 comment:

JET said...

Christine, what is interesting about the hotel listing on the CES website is that the Wynn, Caesars and the Venetian are sold out. These are the $300 a night rooms while the Imperial, Luxor, Hard Rock that are showing availability. What does that say about business spending? I bet CES will be as busy as ever. Let's just hope that Vegas does not try to make up for 50 weeks of losses on the back of the one week CES is in town.